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The Black Rose (1965)
Director: Chor Yuen
Cast: Connie Chan, Nam Hung, Patrick Tse Yin

Publisher: Pearl City; Format: VCD
English subtitles: No
Full credits and synopsis from the HKFA online catalog

During a masquerade party for society’s elite, guest Lee Tien-nam (Lee Pang-fei) exclaims that his valuable sapphire has been stolen by the notorious thief Black Rose and presents as proof a black rose left by the perpetrator. Actually, it is a scheme to swindle his insurance company. Little does Lee know that the hosts of the party, social butterflies Chan Mei-yu (Nam Hung) and her sister Chan Mei-ling (Connie Chan), are the real Black Rose(s). Mingling with the wealthy as socialites is only a guise to facilitate their work of robbing the rich to give to the poor. Of course they cannot let the unscrupulous Lee get away with his plan. So a masked Mei-yu pays him a visit, and the fake theft soon becomes a real theft. Meanwhile, Mei-ling is passing out cash in the poor districts of the city and punching out thugs on its dark streets.

As smart as he is handsome, insurance investigator Cheung Mun-fu (Patrick Tse) quickly suspects the lovely pair of sisters but is constantly foiled in his attempts to uncover them. They’re always one step ahead of him, even managing to steal an invaluable imperial jade chop from right under his protection at a pre-announced time. After beating Mun-fu in a playful showdown of wits, Mei-yu confesses to him how she became the Black Rose. Her parents were circus operators who were exploited and eventually destroyed by the corrupt and powerful. Orphaned at the age of 14, Mei-yu and a very young Mei-ling not only learned to fend for themselves but also vowed to never let the rich oppress the poor. With their charm and beauty, they make philandering men voluntarily turn over their money. With their high flying acrobatic skills, they swiftly steal anything they want from the filthy rich. Thus, they have taken on the role of protector of the poor while victimizing those who are bad. Mei-yu sincerely hopes Mun-fu will one day see her point of view and secretly returns the sapphire to him to show her good will (or perhaps admiration). Although Mun-fu sympathizes with them and agrees to leave town, he has one last word of advice for them: “How much can one person change society? Those who are corrupt will remain corrupt and those who are poor will remain poor.”

Successfully combining traditional wuxia heroism with western spy intrigue, this is probably Chor Yuen’s best action film. Though sassy with 007 affectations, it retains the flavor and colors of Chinese folklore. The motivation of our heroines suggests wuxia morals; Lee was involved in drug trafficking and the jade chop was a national treasure about to be sold to foreigners (not to mention that its decadent owner had eight wives). Their playful mockery of an unjust world has wuxia roots, and their incredible skills could only have come from the wushu in those legends. Even though it was their first collaboration, the chemistry between the three leads is wonderful. Nam hung is poised and beautiful, while Connie is spunky and athletic. Together in cool black “night walker” suits and always in synchrony, they make a very convincing Black Rose come to life. It is delightful to watch them outsmart the wealthy and poke fun at the incompetent police. Suave Patrick Tse is perfect as their equal on the opposite side of the law. Though Mun-fu is no match in wits or agility, his debonair looks qualify him to be the Black Rose’s future partner/husband/brother-in-law.

The Black Rose showed for nine consecutive sold-out days in 1965, breaking the box office record for a black-and-white film in Hong Kong. It spawned many imitations in the following three years, but none were as memorable. With its customary minuscule budgets, Cantonese cinema was not suited for James Bond-style films, which depend on spectacular visuals and high tech entertainment. The Black Rose is an exception because Chor Yuen did not rely exclusively on western spy antics. Because of its success, a bigger-budget color sequel, The Spy With My Face, was made a year later. In it, Chor Yuen became more indulgent with 007-style gadgets and gimmicks. The chic outfits were delectable, but it failed to evoke the same kind of sentimental feelings as its predecessor.

Reviewed by Cindy Law
Nam Hung in The Black Rose
Black Rose Nam Hung is cool and totally in control.

Lee Pang-fei and Nam Hung in The Black Rose
Black Rose Nam Hung robs the drug lord Lee Pang-fei.

Connie Chan in The Black Rose
Black Rose Connie Chan gives some thugs a lesson they wont forget soon.

Patrick Tse Yin in The Black Rose
Patrick Tse is as smart as he is handsome.

Nam Hung and Connie Chan in The Black Rose
The Black Rose sisters save the day.

Nam Hung and Connie Chan in The Black Rose
There are no outlaws more charming than Nam Hung and Connie Chan.